Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Creating Earth Art with Kids

Originally published 3/18/2011 at

Earth art, eco-art, land art … This type of nature art involves using natural materials to produce instillations, art that cannot be removed from its setting. The artist, child or adult, is able to use whatever he or she can find and manipulate without the addition of glue, string, tape, or any other fastener or manmade materials.

Land art is an interesting challenge for children who may be used to more traditional craft projects. Because natural materials lack the uniformity of manufactured supplies kids need to use some creative problem solving in order to balance items, get them

Select a location alongside a path or trail – While you want people to see your creations, you don’t want them stepping on them. You also want to give enough space to the children so they can work without them standing in the middle of a trail where other people are walking.

Encourage children to explore the area and gather a supply of materials before they start creating – Give kids clear boundaries for where they can go to collect supplies (within your sight). Examining the area before they start makes them aware of what is available to use. Also, they’ll find it easier to work on their project if they have stuff to work with, or at least get started.

Will kids be able to use any materials they find or do you want to give them the challenge of just using pinecones, rocks, branches, grass, etc. Although you may think this limits children’s creativity, it encourages them to find unique ways to use what they can. When I did a six-week eco-art series with kids, I encouraged individual days featuring pinecones, branches, grass, and leaves – kids then did two “multi-media” days in which they could use whatever materials they wanted. By selecting different locations for each session kids always had the challenge of working with a variety of materials.

Define individual work areas – Before kids start, they may need to clear leaf litter or create a boundary of branches so other children working at the same time can see other’s work areas. Considering this type of project blends in with the surroundings there is the risk of children stepping on another child’s artwork or taking items from an easily accessible “pile of stuff” without noticing that the items belong to another’s projects.

Will kids work together or individually? – If you want kids to work together, decide whether you will assign pairs or if kids can select their partners. If kids are working by themselves, watch for kids who become frustrated working on their project and then casually start “helping” another child. Oftentimes, the child who was working by himself becomes frustrated by the second child who is now adding their own take to the first child’s project.

Doing earth art with your child or with a camp group or classroom-full of children is a possibility as long as you define clear boundaries – where will kids do the work, will they work together or individually, and what materials will they work with. Part of the fun of land art is that kids make the art, leave it where it is, and then others can discover the creations while on their walk.

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